Exploring Self-Narratives of Women Survivors of Abuse

Busra YalcinozResearcher: Büşra Yalçınöz Uçan, Bogazici University, Turkey 

Exploring Self-Narratives of Women Survivors of Abuse: Stories of Empowerment and Recovery in the Context of Turkey

In Turkey, increasing prevalence of conservative discourses against women’s rights as well as growing public and political support for patriarchal family structure create extra challenging factors for battered women impeding their process of separation and empowerment. A strong public tendency to view intimate partner violence (IPV) as an intra-familial relationship problem, social/political prompts which praise the continuation of marriages as well as inefficiency and inaccessibility of social and institutional support systems have been stated as the major challenges for women to raise their voices against violence (Arat & Altinay, 2007; Ahiska et al., 2009). Based on the essential need to understand women’s experiences of surviving from IPV within this socio-political context of Turkey, this research mainly addresses the following research questions:

  • How does the process of disengagement begin?
  • What do women experience after separation?
  • What are their experiences of empowerment and psychological recovery?

There has been a substantial amount of research on male violence in terms of its traumatic effects on psychological health of women. These studies usually put their deliberate emphasis on understanding various short- and long-term pathological consequences of violence such as PTSD, depression or anxiety disorders (Anderson et al., 2012; Krause et al., 2008). However, feminist criticism of these studies states that overemphasizing challenges and difficulties in women’s lives may result in disappearance of empowerment stories from their narratives and can cause re-victimization by solely representing them as psychologically problematic, weak and incapable (Baines, 1997; Burgess- Proctor, 2012).

In line with this feminist perspective, the theoretical frame of this study is primarily based on a process-oriented, strength-based approach (Anderson & Saunders, 2003; Walsh, 1996). While the early studies generally take the stay-or-leave decision as a one-time event to physically separate from violent partners, the emergent literature in the last few decades suggests that making the decision to leave a violent relationship is a long-term process beginning with transformations in the mindset of women while they are still in the abusive relationships and continuing well beyond the act of physical separation (Allen et al., 2010; Sabina & Tindale, 2008; Wright et al., 2007). A strength-based, process-focused perspective also enables researchers to comprehend the agency of battered women by highlighting their motivation and determination to cope with challenges in the leaving process, to rediscover their power and potential to connect with the world again and to reestablish their feeling of agency (Allen et al., 2010; Anderson et al., 2012; Baly, 2010; Flasch et al. 2015; Giesbrecht et al., 2011).

This research examines women’s subjective narratives of escaping from IPV and recovering from its trauma. The aim is to construct an explanatory theoretical understanding of surviving from IPV grounded in a comprehensive picture of women’s experiences, feelings and thinking within the context of their life history (Charmaz, 2006). It will contribute to the related studies by providing knowledge of the culturally unique aspects of women’s experiences of empowerment. Also, the gradually deteriorating circumstances in Turkey, especially for women, make the research even more timely and crucial in terms of its implications for developing experience-based psychosocial intervention programs to support women’s healing process.